Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Aug 17-23: Barbarians, vampires, spy kids, talking cats, romance!

In Theaters

All manner of things come our way this week—some of them are even movies, and one of them is in smell-o-vision. That seems fair. Lots of movies smell, this one’s honest about it. So what’s on tap? Well, from the mainstream side of the ledger, there’s Conan the Barbarian, Fright Night, One Day and Spy Kids: All the Time in the World. The art/indie side finds The Future opening at the Fine Arts and If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front at The Carolina.

First of all, I’ve seen both The Future and If a Tree Falls and they’re reviewed in this week’s paper. Indeed, the review of The Future is probably the most conflicted thing I’ve ever written. You’ll see. Now, about all this other stuff…

My primary memory of the original Conan the Barbarian is of seeing it in a Times Square movie house in 1982. A gentleman who may or may not have been a pimp—he certainly dressed like one—was in the row behind me, and at the moment that Der Arnold pitched the rubber James Earl Jones head down the steps, he yelled, “Bowling for dollars!” It was the highlight of the experience for me. I doubt there’s much chance of repeating that experience with this Conan the Barbarian from director Marcus Nispel, a man who has already bitched up reboots of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and Friday the 13th. I confess that I’ve never even heard of Jason Momoa—the guy with the large and sinewy muscles in charge this round. I suppose this is what comes from never seeing Baywatch. So far there are no reviews of any note (read: credibility). Unless I can be promised a pimp in the audience, this may well go to Mr. Souther.

I saw the original Fright Night (1985)—though not in Times Square and with no pimp. I thought it was OK. I saw it again on VHS (in other words, a while back) and that’s still the best I would say about it, so I have no problem with a Fright Night remake. (You can see a lot of ‘80s fanatics who do on message boards.) I certainly can’t fault the casting. Anton Yelchin should be a fine Charley Brewster and Colin Farrell an even finer vampire. I have no problem with Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots or Christopher Mintz-Plasse either. And it’s nice that they found something for the original’s vampire, Chris Sarandon, to do. Supposedly, the original’s writer-director Tom Holland is good with the idea of a remake, but then he should be getting a piece of this and, let’s face it, how else is he likely to get his name mentioned these days. I’m willing to give it a shot. I always thought that the original’s ending could have been done better. Maybe this has done it.

I can’t help but feel that Focus Features has made a mistake in going wide with Lone Scherfig’s One Day. Scherfig’s An Education (2009) had been handled—correctly—as an art title by Sony Pictures Classics, and that worked. This looks to be a similar proposition, and while Anne Hathaway is something of a star (not sure if Love and Other Drugs helped that), but Jim Sturgess has only been in one movie—Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe (2007)—that really suited him and, however much I like him, I can’t claim he’s a box office star. So that kind of makes One Day—a story that shows the pair of more-than-friends-but-less-than-lovers main characters over a span of 20 years on the same day of each year—look like an art movie that’s being thrown to the sharks. And there’s the worrisome fact that there aren’t any reviews yet. But it’s still the film I’m most interested in this week.

That leaves us Spy Kids: All the Time in the World. That’s the one that’s in “Aroma-scope,” which is essentially the same scratch-and-sniff card approach that was called “Odorama” when it was used for John Waters’ Polyester in 1981. Presumably some of the more unfortunate scents from Polyester will not be involved here. Anyway, this is a spin-off of Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids trilogy with the original characters reduced to supporting roles and cameos. Rodriguez has tried before to come up with a family film to equal his 2001 original, but he’s never quite gotten there. Whether he will this round remains to be seen. Since Justin Souther is our Rodriguez expert, it will be up to him to convince me whether I need to see for myself.

I should also note that local filmmaker Paul Bonesteel’s documentary The Day Carl Sandburg Died—which I somehow never saw—is opening for a week’s run (at 4 and 7 p.m.) at the Flatrock Cinema in Flatrock. Those I know who did see it speak very highly of it.

Several things take their leave this week. Both The Last Mountain (Fine Arts) and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Carolina) underperformed (I can’t claim great surprise) and will be gone come Friday. Also going from The Carolina is The Trip. The interested need stir themselves not later than Thursday evening if they plan on catching any of these.

Special Screenings

The Thursday Horror Picture Show this week is Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs (1991) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 18, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. The Soviet WWII film Come and See (1985) the World Cinema offering on Friday, Aug. 19, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Richard Burton’s Doctor Faustus (1967) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 21, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersoville. The Asheville Film Society continues its “Five Reasons Why Paramount Was the Greatest of All Studios” series with A. Edward Sutherland’s International House (1933) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 23, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress.

On DVD

There are a surprising number of art titles of note this week: The Conspirator, Queen to Play and Jane Eyre. There’s also the so-bad-it’s-good Priest and the so-bad-it’s bad Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil and further proof that Kate Hudson hates us with Something Borrowed.

Notable TV Screenings

TCM brings us more “Summer Under the Stars.” This week it’s Bogart on Wednesday, Jean Gabin on Thursday, Debbie Reynolds on Friday, Montgomery Clift on Saturday, Cary Grant on Sunday, Joan Crawford on Monday, and Conrad Veidt on Tuesday. You could do worse.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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14 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Aug 17-23: Barbarians, vampires, spy kids, talking cats, romance!

  1. I’m ok with a FRIGHT NIGHT remake as well. The cast and director choice are pretty inspired.

    Jason Momoa is in GAME OF THRONES on HBO

    Honestly the biggest dvd title out this week is season five of DEXTER. Bigger than ever.

    Also out this week from Criterion are two earlier films by two masters of cinema. Stanley Kubrick’s THE KILLING is a straightforward noir with excellent performances by Sterlin Hayden and my personal favorite Timothy Carey. The real treat is CUL-DE-SAC by Roman Polanski, making it’s US home debut. I loved this movie, and it set a template for many horror/thriller films to come.

    Animator Bill Plympton is always welcome, his new one is IDIOTS & ANGELS. I want to say that John Carpenter is BACK, but he is only “back” in the pretty good film THE WARD.

    Also Ken, you probably already know, but Fox MOD is releasing THE MUSIC LOVERS next month.

  2. Ken Hanke

    The real treat is CUL-DE-SAC by Roman Polanski, making it’s US home debut. I loved this movie, and it set a template for many horror/thriller films to come.

    I have a 16mm print of it which I haven’t watched in years. It is one extremely odd movie. I think calling it “horror/thriller” may be a little deceptive, because it’s really more of a black comi-tragedy.

    Also Ken, you probably already know, but Fox MOD is releasing THE MUSIC LOVERS next month.

    Of course it is since I just bought it as a region 2 from the UK, which is fine, though the chaptering is a joke (six chapters for a 122 min. movie). Do you understand what the connection is between Fox and UA/MGM titles?

  3. I have a 16mm print of it which I haven’t watched in years. It is one extremely odd movie. I think calling it “horror/thriller” may be a little deceptive, because it’s really more of a black comi-tragedy.

    Oh, it’s definitely got the Polanski sense of humor. The plot has been copied repeatedly by horror films.

    Do you understand what the connection is between Fox and UA/MGM titles?

    The MGM catalog has been flopping around over the past few years. Sony bought it to get the rights to the Bond franchise, then Fox bought it recently. I guess they have the rights to manufacture on demand as well. MGM still ended up in bankruptcy.

  4. Ken Hanke

    The plot has been copied repeatedly by horror films.

    Well, the plot dates back at least to Hugh Walpole’s short story “The Silver Mask” and its stage version Kind Lady and two films of it, while its gangsterization dates back to The Desperate Hours or possibly earlier.

    The MGM catalog has been flopping around over the past few years. Sony bought it to get the rights to the Bond franchise, then Fox bought it recently.

    Except of course for the titles that WB has, though that I think has a cut off date.

  5. Well, the plot dates back at least to Hugh Walpole’s short story “The Silver Mask” and its stage version Kind Lady and two films of it, while its gangsterization dates back to The Desperate Hours or possibly earlier.

    That’s true, and it’s been awhile since I’ve seen The Desperate Hours. Polanski injects some sex (and sexual repression) into the formula.

    Except of course for the titles that WB has, though that I think has a cut off date.

    You’re correct, but I’ll need to research that. WB has MGM cartoons until the 50s I believe, although they might have licensed some of them. Fox has late 50s AIP era titles that Orion purchased.

  6. Me

    TCN has a Jean Gabin marathon tonight and Grand Illusion comes on tomorrow at 10pm

  7. luluthebeast

    [b]Jason Momoa is in GAME OF THRONES on HBO[/b]

    Was, actually, he died in the last episode but I thought he did an excellent job. I don’t know if he’s enough to get me to go see this, but it might be.

    [b]ONE DAY[/b] sounds like a remake of SAME TIME NEXT YEAR, which can be a great play with the right actors. It was a so-so movie with Alan Alda.

  8. Ken Hanke

    ONE DAY sounds like a remake of SAME TIME NEXT YEAR

    It may sound like it, but it has zero in common with it. This has nothing to do with the characters specifically meeting on this one day, it’s merely looking in on where they are — not always together in the least — on the anniversary of the day they met.

  9. luluthebeast

    Well that doesn’t sound very good!

    And while Momoa made a better Conan than Arnold, the movie was worse, especially the cgi laden, dark, almost silly final battle scene.

  10. Ken Hanke

    I’m not sure how that description of the structure sounds very anything. It depends entirely on the content of those days, doesn’t it? All I can state authoritatively is that One Day is better than Same Time Next Year. I’d be willing to bet it’s better than Conan, but that’s strictly an educated guess. And I’m content to leave it there.

  11. luluthebeast

    CLASH OF THE TITANS was better than CONAN, and it doesn’t take much to be better than STNY, especially since I’m not much of an Alda fan, but I saw it on stage once with two superlative actors who lifted it to a much higher level. But if you say they do a good job in ONE DAY, that’s good enough for me.

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